The Club Sportiva paddock is well hidden with small exterior signage and little to clue you in to the fact that behind the well-guarded steel doors of an old shipbuilder's shop sits two million dollars worth of the world's finest cars, each one ready to hit the streets. We dumped our rental car by the curb and enjoyed some cityscapes in several of the cars they had to offer, and despite a little trouble parallel parking the Maserati and navigating some of Frisco's more vertical roads, we were given a taste of the experience of being a member, from the introductory tour when they first handed us the keys to wine and cigars from their 1,000-bottle cellar in the clubhouse at the end of the day.
The 200-plus members who have been in the club, some since its grand opening four years ago, can enjoy any of the facilities and any events that fit into their busy individual schedules. Membership isn't guaranteed for each applicant, however-they get about a dozen a week-because there is a very stringent screening process that keeps the quality of the membership on a high level. They are looking for active professionals who have a high respect and admiration for beautiful cars, but more importantly, those who are responsible; so far, Club Sportiva has enjoyed a blemish-free record. Nobody has bent a fender or dented a door yet, and Fuller and Johnson attribute that to their background checks, driving record checks, and compatibility requirements. Johnson puts it this way, "If I wouldn't enjoy having a drink with you after work one day, then I wouldn't want you in the club." That's fair.
Within the club's structure, there are several levels of membership. The entry level, called Gold Membership, runs approximately $3,200 a year, and that affords you 17,000 points. Our day with the Ferrari F355 Spyder would have cost us 3,000 points, and that means we would have another five days left in the car, a solid week of driving. But take into consideration that this is a top level car in June, the height of the season. It is an expensive time to be an enthusiast, but if we wanted to take, say, the Honda S2000 or Mini Cooper out on the road during the winter, we could have it for nearly three solid weeks. The extra benefits are discounted use of the clubhouse for personal events, like a birthday party, board meeting, and so on, and some complimentary Club Sportiva merchandise.
Now retired from NASA, one of the club's more famous members, 76-year-old Dick Gordon, flew the command module in the Apollo 12 mission to the moon in November 1969 and has been a member for a number of years. "Doing a speaking engagement for another member, I met Torbin and saw some of the cars. I fell in love with the Corvette," Gordon says, which reminded him of his '69 Corvette given, one each, to all of the astronauts by then-GM-president Ed Cole. "My wife is trying to talk me into a Porsche, since she used to race one years ago in Florida. I'm headed up there again in mid-August, and I may try something new... any sports car. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as the roof comes off."
Contrasting the entry-level Gold Membership, there is the top-of-the-line Elite Membership, costing nearly $12,500 a year, but it comes with all the bells and whistles you would expect, including free use of the clubhouse, a free stay at historic MacArther Place in Sonoma, Calif., a linen-bound Club Sportiva photo book, and so forth, and 80,000 points. The Ferrari in the summer will eat up all of those points in 19 weekend days or nearly a month of weekdays. Torbin explains: "Weekdays are significantly discounted because that is when most of our members are working and the majority of the cars are available, at least during the off months."
But you'd be foolish to blow it all on one car at one time. The club is about the experience of a variety of cars, not just a single car. Mix it up and you can work out a schedule that will allow you nearly 60 days behind the wheel of the club cars, from a Mini Cooper up to a Lamborghini and everything in between. Ever been in a Bentley? That's a Tier Three car. How about an '89 Porsche 911 or a '62 Corvette Convertible? Both Tier Four. Buy these 20 cars from 20 different dealers, store them in your garage, and pay for their professional care and service each year for this kind of money. Impossible.